Mariners have rare opportunities in AL West, free agency to make 2021 playoff hopes realistic
With the Mariners staying in the playoff picture into the final week of the 2020 season, there’s been renewed interest in general manager Jerry Dipoto’s timeline for the team to truly contend for the postseason. That’s resulted in the focus being put squarely on next season, even though Seattle is still waiting for a litany of top prospects to arrive in the big leagues.
Just how realistic are hopes for the M’s to put an end to their long playoff drought, which began all the way back in 2002 and has been the longest in major North American pro sports for several years? MLB insider Jon Morosi of the MLB Network and FOX Sports told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore it’s actually quite realistic, and he had a few reasons why.
The first has to do with how the team played in a surprising 60-game 2020 season.
“The way they played in stretches this year and the fact that they’ve got some new pitching coming (is promising),” Morosi said. “… Kyle Lewis had a tremendous season this year, I was very impressed by what he was able to do. Dylan Moore had a nice year. Overall, I think this is a team that has enough young talent you can start to dream on a little bit, so I think next year competing makes a ton of sense.”
Perhaps even more important, however, is that two things are lining up well for the Mariners.
Much like Dipoto theorized before the 2019 season, the rest of the American League West should provide an opening for Seattle.
“Part of it is the division,” Morosi said. “The Angels are lost. They’re in the process of replacing their GM, that’s obviously one issue. The Rangers did not have a good year this year either. The Astros… something about their situation feels a little tenuous. They may lose (George) Springer after this year, who knows? Obviously (Justin) Verlander’s not going to be able to pitch for them next year. And we know the A’s aren’t going to be able to keep everybody in the long term given where their budget is. So there’s opportunity in that division.”
Morosi’s final point was that the Mariners could also seize an opportunity in free agency this offseason. After all, they have been able to cut down their payroll while trading off veterans for prospects since starting their rebuild, with the idea being they could eventually use that saved money to add pieces around the core of young talent they are building.
“What I wonder is how aggressive and how sort of cash flush they might be as an ownership group this winter to make some different free-agent decisions, because this is a year when a lot of teams are going to be sitting on the sidelines because of obvious reasons financially,” he said. “If you can spend, and if you’re of the appetite to spend, you may be able to get a lot better deals this year than you thought in years past.”
You can hear the full conversation with Morosi beginning at around the 23-minute mark of the podcast at this link or in the player below.